Authors don’t just make money from books. Often, the majority of their income comes from what is behind the books. This is where the power of learning how to create an online course can help change your career as an author.
Recently, my friend Gregory was four weeks out from publishing his first book. He had spent the better part of a year writing and preparing to launch his book.
Just a few weeks out from the launch he realized he had neglected to think about something important: how was he going to monetize the back end?
While a well-launched book can certainly earn a good income, if you do not monetize the back-end of the book by consulting, speaking, or creating online courses then you are not realizing the full potential of self-publishing.
As they say, a book is the new business card. But, you can’t just have a business card – you need the business behind the business card as well.
There are several ways to monetize the back end of a book:
- Consulting / Coaching
- Speaking / Workshops
- Create Online Course (fastest and most scalable)
While I am biased, my absolute favorite method is to create an online course. It doesn’t take 6-12 months to develop like a software product would, and it doesn’t rely on your personal time like offering services, consulting, and speaking.
Knowing that I specialize in online courses, Gregory reached out to me for help with producing a course for the new book he was about to publish. I’ll be sharing 3 steps to create online courses from your books. With these tips, you too can maximize the results of your next (or a previous) book.
Imagine if you take every book you have published, which people are buying for $5-$10, and quickly transform the same content into a parallel product for which you can charge 10 to 100 times that amount.
That’s the power of turning your book into an online course, which is what Self-Publishing School does through their Author Advantage Accelerator program.
3 Steps to Create an Online Course From Your Book
As the owner of a course production company, people often have the same question when it comes to turning a book into an online course:
What’s the difference? Why would people pay more for the same material?
Great question. There are a couple key differences between a course and a book (aside from the obvious differences in format).
Step 1 – Understand the differences between a book and a course
#1 – Tone – If you were to read your book out loud, verbatim, that would be an audiobook which has a very different feeling to an online course.
#2 – Focus – Again, using the audiobook example, your audiobook might be 15 hours long, while you course is 5 hours long. A large part of the value of a book is exploring the “why” of a topic or possibly the history, while a course is designed to be extremely actionable. That means the content requires great focus.
#3 – Specificity – Books are filled with great stories and great ideas. They plant important seeds in your mind, and might even have some simple exercises at the end of the chapters. That being said, it takes a lot of effort to apply what you learn from a book.
A significant part of the value of an online course is how easy it is to take action.
If it’s a course about networking, you can provide email templates, step-by-step guides to follow, software tools you can use. It’s designed to be immediately actionable, while a book on networking might discuss more general concepts on networking such as why it’s a good idea to go to a conference, to make good eye contact, to introduce people to each other, etc.
If you want to see some real-life examples of the differences, check out the audiobook and the online course version of Gregory’s book to compare (you can do a free preview of each to see what I mean).
Both are based on the same content, but the tone, structure, focus, and specificity is quite different.
Step 2 – Build an online course from a book or a manuscript
There are a few ways you can do this:
#1 – Decide the Format – There are many ways to build a course. You can build a text-based course, a video-based course that focused on live filming, or on recording your screen while you teach someone to program, or by recording slides as you teach. Usually it’s a mix. You can also have courses two hours long, or 20 hours long. With or without PDF handouts. With or without bonus content (such as expert interviews).
Here is what we decided on for Gregory’s course:
- Ultimately 3 modules, with 3-5 lessons each
- The lesson length would average about 10 minutes (although it ranges from 5-15)
- The content style would primarily be a mix of recording well-designed slides, mixed with bonus content like expert interviews, follow-along PDF guides, etc.
Pro tip: How do you decide the course length/structure? One module should bring people through a major milestone. For example, setting up a website before beginning to write content and market the site in later modules. One video should have one clear, stand-alone step in the process. For example, video 3 of module 1 for Building Your New Website might entail setting up the site hosting, video 4 might be configuring wordpress, etc.
#2 – Turn the manuscript into a course script – This means cutting the fat and changing the tone as discussed above. Your course should clearly get people from point A (where they are now) to point B (where they want to go) and this should be clearly reflected by the course script. Even if your book is quite long, you can do this in about a week if you maintain focus
#3 – Turn the script into a slide plan – This is a document which matches up the main ideas in the script with slides that you will be recording. Most people jump straight from script to slide design, but this (quick) intermediary step ensures that your course has a good flow to it and stays organized
#4 – Turn the slide plan into slides – Create a slide template that you like, then customize slides to match your slide plan. Or better yet, outsource this process to a professional.
#5 – Record the scripts as an audio file – Sit down and read your script as enthusiastically as possible.
- Don’t try to record your screen with the slides at the same time, the quality will be lower. Record the audio separately then match the slides in post-production.
- Leave a pause and say “SLIDE X” between slides. This will help with the next step, editing.
#6 – Combine the slides and audio file into a video file – Self-explanatory. It is not recommended that you do this yourself, as a professional likely would do it better/faster. Invest a few hundred bucks to get it done right the first time.
#7 – Find useful places to add extra materials – PDFs, expert interviews, new examples, templates, etc. Just ask yourself every time you say do this, “how can I help them do that?”
#8 – Clean up, edit and structure everything into a finalized course – Did everything stay organized? We recommend using a google drive folder structure that we link to below to keep things organized.
#9 – Upload the course to your website – If you want the simplest option possible, go with Teachable. This is what we used for Gregory’s course as well. If you want something more sophisticated, go with MemberMouse (another popular option we use with clients).
Step 3 – Connect the book and the course
Now that you’ve completed the course, how do you get people from your book to find your course, and vice versa? The simplest way is to directly link from your book to your course website.
However, sometimes people will complain about that approach “they are just trying to sell their other products!!!”
Another way is to direct people to a companion website through a lead magnet, which offers additional resources and downloads for free — in exchange for their email address.
Then you will want to set-up an email autoresponder which offers additional value and guides them through the process from having read the book to wanting to delve deeper and buy the course.
Pro tip: Add this download link to the beginning AND the end of the book, and preferably a few times in the middle. Not everyone finishes every book they buy, so you want to make sure they see the link even if they stop after the first chapter. In fact, you can even include the page with the link in the “free preview” of the book on the kindle store to get even more people to see it.
What kind of results would this really get?
- Let’s say you get 5,000 downloads as part of your book launch, then 1,000 purchases per month after that
- 20% of those people who grab the book also check out the link
- Then 50% of the people who visit the page submit their email address
- Finally, 10% of those people who join your list also purchase your course
- You now instantly have 500 more people on your email list, and 100 more people per month ad infinitum
- 50 people buy your course during your book launch, and 10 more people buy every month
- If your course is priced at $500, then that is $25,000 in additional revenue during your book launch, and $5,000 every month after that
…and that, my friends, is the power of combining a book with an online course.
I know writing a book is hard (I’ve written several myself) and by the time it’s done and published you may feel done yourself. But, don’t forget that offering a course is your chance to either kick start or rapidly grow your business.
The best way to maximize the value of your book is to lead people from your book to discover other parts of your brand.
Give the people who love your book the opportunity to work with you further, either through an online course or through one of the other methods discussed above.